The Greatest "Iran" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    This graphic novel is a memoir that provides a personal account of the author's childhood and young adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The story portrays the impact of war, political upheaval, and religious extremism on ordinary people, while also exploring themes of identity, resilience, and the power of storytelling. Despite the harsh realities the protagonist faces, the narrative also includes moments of humor and warmth, providing a nuanced view of life in Iran during this tumultuous period.

  2. 2. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald

    "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" is a collection of four-line stanzas, or quatrains, translated from Persian poetry. The poems, filled with contemplations on mortality and the transient nature of life, advocate for living in the moment and enjoying life's simple pleasures. The work is revered for its beautiful and evocative imagery, philosophical musings, and its exploration of themes such as love, faith, doubt, and the fleeting nature of time.

  3. 3. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

    "The Great Railway Bazaar" is a travelogue in which the author embarks on a four-month journey by train from London through Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Siberia, and then back to Europe. The book is a vivid and insightful account of the people, cultures, landscapes, and experiences encountered during the journey, painting a unique picture of the world as seen from the perspective of a train window. The author's sharp observations and engaging storytelling make this journey as much an inner exploration as a geographical one.

  4. 4. The Blind Owl by Ṣādiq Hidāyat

    "The Blind Owl" is a haunting narrative that delves into the psyche of a tormented artist who is grappling with love, loss, and existential dread. The protagonist is a reclusive painter of pen cases who is haunted by the image of a mysterious woman, leading him down a spiral of obsession and madness. The story unfolds in a dreamlike narrative, blurring the lines between reality and illusion, and is steeped in Persian mysticism and symbolism. The novel explores themes of alienation, death, and the fragility of the human condition.

  5. 5. Bostan by Saadi

    "Bostan" is a classic Persian poetry book that delves into ethical philosophy and Sufism. The book is divided into ten chapters, each focusing on a different virtue such as justice, gratitude, love, and humility. The author uses beautiful and vivid imagery, along with tales and anecdotes, to illustrate moral and ethical lessons. The book is revered for its deep spiritual insights and wisdom, offering readers a guide on how to live a virtuous and meaningful life.

  6. 6. Alamut by Vladimir Bartol

    The novel takes place in the 11th Century Middle East, where the charismatic leader of a radical Islamic sect, known as the Ismailis, manipulates and controls his followers through a combination of religious indoctrination, drugs, and the promise of paradise. The leader creates a literal paradise within the walls of his fortress, Alamut, in order to convince his followers that they are experiencing the afterlife. The story explores themes of power, manipulation, and the nature of faith.

  7. 7. Persepolis Two by Marjane Satrapi

    This graphic novel continues the story of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. After being sent to Europe for her safety, she struggles with feeling out of place and longs for her homeland. Eventually, she returns to Iran, only to find it vastly different from the place she remembered. The book explores themes of identity, culture, and the effects of political upheaval on a personal level.

  8. 8. A Persian Requiem by Simin Daneshvar

    Set against the backdrop of the British occupation of Iran during World War II, this novel explores the complexities of life in a small, southern Iranian town. The narrative centers on a strong-willed woman who runs her household and her husband's agricultural estate while he is away. As the town grapples with political turmoil, economic hardship, and the pressures of foreign influence, the protagonist navigates the challenges of maintaining her independence and integrity. The story delves into themes of national identity, colonialism, and the struggle for personal and political freedom, painting a rich portrait of Iranian society at a pivotal moment in its history.

  9. 9. Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

    "Imperium" is a gripping account of the author's travels through the Soviet Union during the final years of its existence. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the complexities of power, the author delves into the lives of ordinary people and high-ranking officials alike, revealing the oppressive nature of the Soviet regime and the profound impact it had on the lives of its citizens. Through vivid descriptions and insightful observations, the book offers a compelling narrative that sheds light on the inner workings of a crumbling empire.

  10. 10. The Tootinameh; Or, Tales of a Parrot by India, Iran

    "The Tootinameh; Or, Tales of a Parrot" is a collection of traditional stories from India and Iran, told from the perspective of a parrot. The parrot tells tales to a young woman to keep her from straying while her husband is away, weaving narratives of love, honor, and morality. The book is a rich tapestry of cultural and historical insights, showcasing the storytelling traditions of India and Iran.

  11. 11. The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski

    "The Emperor" is a non-fiction account of the final years of Haile Selassie's reign as the Emperor of Ethiopia. It is based on interviews with his former courtiers and officials, providing a unique and intimate portrayal of a regime marked by lavishness, intrigue, and corruption. This work also explores the dramatic events leading up to the Emperor's downfall and the Ethiopian revolution.

  12. 12. Shahnameh by Ferdowsi

    "Shahnameh" is an epic poem that chronicles the history of pre-Islamic Persia, from the creation of the world up until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. This literary masterpiece intertwines myth, history, and folklore to tell the stories of legendary kings, heroes, and villains, such as the tragic hero Rostam and the tyrant Zahhak. The narrative also explores themes of love, loss, and moral dilemmas, providing a rich and nuanced portrayal of Persian culture and identity.

  13. 13. In Xanadu by William Dalrymple

    "In Xanadu" is a travelogue that follows the journey of a young historian and writer as he retraces Marco Polo's route from Jerusalem to the fabled city of Xanadu in Mongolia. Along the way, the author weaves together a rich tapestry of history and adventure, engaging with diverse cultures and landscapes. His travels take him through the Middle East, South Asia, and into the heart of China, offering insights into the complex interplay between past and present, and the enduring allure of one of history's most legendary journeys. The narrative is as much a personal coming-of-age story as it is a homage to the spirit of exploration and discovery.

  14. 14. The Essential Rumi by Jalal al-Din Rumi

    This book is a comprehensive collection of poems by a 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, offering readers a deep dive into the spiritual and philosophical world of one of the most beloved poets in history. The compilation explores themes of love, the divine, and the nature of the human soul, drawing on the poet's rich imagery and profound insights to captivate and enlighten its audience. Through these translated verses, the reader is invited to experience the timeless wisdom that transcends cultural and religious boundaries, providing a glimpse into the ecstatic and mystical journey towards spiritual transcendence.

  15. 15. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

    The book is a memoir that takes place in Iran from 1979 to 1997, during the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. The story focuses on a professor who secretly gathers seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western literature in her home. As they read and discuss works by authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and Vladimir Nabokov, they explore their personal dreams and the losses they suffered due to the political, social, and cultural climate of the time.

  16. 16. Daughter Of Persia: A Woman's Journey From Her Father's Harem Through The Islamic Revolution by Sattareh Farman-Farmaian

    This memoir recounts the extraordinary life of a woman born into a privileged family in early 20th-century Iran, who witnessed the dramatic shifts of her country's social and political landscape. Growing up in a polygamous household, she broke with tradition to pursue an education abroad, later returning to Iran to become a pioneering advocate for social reform and women's rights. Her story spans the rise and fall of the Pahlavi dynasty, the advent of the Islamic Revolution, and her subsequent exile, offering a personal lens on Iran's complex history and the role of women within it. Through her journey, she embodies the struggles and resilience of a nation in the face of modernity and change.

  17. 17. Veils by Nahid Rachlin

    "Veils" is a compelling narrative that explores the cultural and personal conflicts faced by two Iranian cousins with contrasting worldviews. The story delves into the complexities of identity, tradition, and liberation as the young women grapple with their roles in a society marked by political upheaval and strict social norms. As one cousin embraces the security of an arranged marriage and the other seeks education and independence in America, their divergent paths illuminate the struggles of modern Iranian women caught between the allure of Western freedoms and the comforts of familiar customs. Their journey is a poignant reflection on the veils, both literal and metaphorical, that define and often confine their lives.

  18. 18. Samarkand by Amin Maalouf

    This novel is a captivating blend of historical fiction and adventure, set against the backdrop of the 11th century Islamic world. It tells the story of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam and the creation of his most enduring work, the Rubaiyat. Through a rich tapestry of intrigue, romance, and political upheaval, the narrative follows Khayyam's life and the subsequent journey of his manuscript through time, including its perilous passage to the modern era. The book not only brings to life a vibrant period of history but also explores themes of love, fate, and the enduring power of poetry. Through its intricate plot and vivid characterizations, the novel offers a window into the cultural and intellectual achievements of a time and place far removed from the contemporary Western world.

  19. 19. Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

    This memoir tells the story of an Iranian family who migrated to America in the 1970s, offering a humorous take on their experiences. The narrative focuses on the author's childhood and adolescence, exploring themes of cultural identity, assimilation, and the immigrant experience in America. It highlights the family's journey of navigating a new country and culture, while still holding on to their Iranian roots. The book showcases the author's ability to find humor in the most challenging situations, making it a heartwarming and amusing read.

  20. 20. Canon of Medicine by Avicenna

    This book is a five-volume medical encyclopedia written in the 11th century. It provides a complete system of medicine according to the principles of Galen (and Hippocrates). The work covers all aspects of human health, including diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, as well as pharmaceutical sciences and the use of medicinal plants. It was used as a standard medical textbook in the Islamic world and Europe for centuries and has had a lasting impact on the field of medicine.

  21. 21. The Rubáiyát Of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald

    "The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám" is a collection of quatrains that explores the themes of life's fleeting nature, the pursuit of happiness, and the questioning of existence through the lens of a skeptical philosopher. The poems reflect on the joys and sorrows of life, the beauty of the natural world, and the importance of living in the moment, often with a tone of melancholic wisdom. The work is renowned for its profound and lyrical musings on mortality and the eternal questions that have puzzled humanity, all while encouraging readers to cherish the transient pleasures of life before they slip away.

  22. 22. Shah Of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuscinski

    This book is a compelling blend of history and personal narratives, set against the backdrop of Iran's 1979 revolution. The author, a seasoned journalist, delves into the complex tapestry of Iranian society, exploring the rise and fall of the last monarch. Through a series of vignettes and interviews with Iranians from all walks of life, the narrative captures the atmosphere of fear and hope that defined the era. The work is as much an examination of the mechanics of power and the ease with which a society can be manipulated as it is a chronicle of a pivotal moment in Iran's history. The author's lyrical prose and sharp insights offer a timeless reflection on the nature of tyranny and the human struggle for freedom.

  23. 23. Avesta by Zoroastrian scripture

    "Avesta" is a sacred text of Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion predating Islam. The book contains the teachings of Zoroaster (Zarathustra), the prophet and founder of Zoroastrianism. It includes hymns, rituals, and legal and ethical codes, all intended to guide followers in their spiritual journey. The text also provides insights into the history, culture, and philosophical concepts of the Zoroastrian faith, including the dualistic cosmology of good and evil and the role of free will.

  24. 24. If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

    The novel explores the emotional turmoil of a young Iranian girl who is in love with her best friend, another girl, in a country where their love is forbidden. Facing the harsh realities of a society that criminalizes homosexuality, she considers undergoing gender reassignment surgery, which is legal in Iran, as a desperate attempt to be with her beloved openly. The story delves into themes of identity, sacrifice, and the lengths one might go to for love, set against the backdrop of contemporary Tehran's complex socio-political landscape.

  25. 25. The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark

    This travelogue presents the author's journey through the Middle East, specifically Persia, in the early 20th century. The narrative is a blend of history, geography, and personal exploration, as the author ventures into remote and dangerous regions, including the infamous "Valleys of the Assassins." The book provides a detailed and vivid account of the author's experiences and observations, bringing to life the landscapes, cultures, and histories of the regions she explores.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.